The attorney for a man arrested in 1987 while protesting the appearance of an avowed racist in Glendale backed off from previous contentions that the arrest was politically motivated in opening statements at his client's trial Wednesday.
Attorney Hugh R. Manes had told Glendale Municipal Judge Charles E. Horan on Monday that he would attempt to prove that his client, John Michael Lee, 43, was arrested because police officers "didn't like what he was saying."
But Manes on Wednesday did not mention that contention to the jury. Instead, he told jurors that he would prove that his client did not obstruct police officers who were trying to disperse the crowd.
On Monday, Horan had ordered attorneys and Lee not to talk to the media. Horan said his decision was motivated by inflammatory remarks that Manes made to reporters on the eve of the trial.
Lee is one of four men--including Jewish Defense League leader Irv Rubin--who were charged with riot, unlawful assembly, and resisting and obstructing arrest during a November, 1987, rally protesting the appearance of avowed white supremacist J. B. Stoner at the Glendale Holiday Inn.
On Wednesday, Manes told the jury of eight men and four women that Lee was arrested for passionately explaining to police officers why he thought that they "had no business" dispersing the crowd. "For that, and for that alone, he was arrested and taken into custody," Manes said.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Phillip L. Heeger said he would prove that Lee's verbal confrontation with police officers hindered them from dispersing what they had concluded was an unlawful crowd.
Heeger said the officers decided that Lee had become an "indigenous or organic" leader of a group that police perceived as potentially violent.
Videotape of Rally
Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner filed the charges based on an analysis of a videotape made during the demonstration. The video of the tumultuous rally, which drew more than 250 people, will be shown to jurors at Lee's trial.
Each of the four men arrested at the rally is being tried separately on the misdemeanor charges in Glendale Municipal Court.
Rubin pleaded no contest in July to failure to disperse. As part of an agreement between attorneys in the case, the other charges filed against him were dropped. Rubin was sentenced to one year of probation and fines and court penalties totaling $772 or 64 hours of community service.
The other two men arrested at the rally are to face trial later this month. They are Pasadena City College Prof. Roger Marheime, 42, of Pasadena, and Jose Hernandez, 34, of Los Angeles, a member of the Los Angeles-based International Committee Against Racism.